That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the establishment of the Pensionable Age Task Force which shall consider and make recommendations on the appropriate level of pensionable age; to provide for the production of a report on the recommendations of the Pensionable Age Task Force; to provide for the dissolution of that Pensionable Age Task Force and to provide for related matters.
I welcome the opportunity to introduce the Pensionable Age Task Force Bill 2019 this afternoon. This is not the Bill I wanted to introduce to the House. If Opposition Members were not limited in that no Bill brought forward can involve a cost, I would introduce a Bill that would seek to halt the pension age increases coming down the track. Instead, I am left with no option other than to take a roundabout way of doing this.
This Bill seeks the establishment of a pensionable age task force with the purpose of considering the appropriate level of pensionable age and to make recommendations to the Minister. Let us be very clear on three issues when it comes to increasing the State pension age. First, decisions on what age people qualify for the State pension should not be made based on cost-saving measures. Second, Ireland is going further and faster than all other EU countries when it comes to setting the pension age. Third, there are major implications for those contractually obliged to retire at 65 years.
In 2021, the pension age will be 67 years. In 2028, it will again increase, this time to 68 years. These increases were decided without engagement with trade unions or groups representing older people or employers, without any debate in these Houses and without any consideration of the significant financial implications that increases to the pension age would have for retiring workers. Instead, the Government simply went ahead and implemented the changes. This should never have happened. These increases in pension age put Ireland on course to have the highest pension age in the OECD by 2028. In fact, we will have one of the highest State pension ages in the world despite the fact we currently have the second lowest pensioner-to-worker dependency ratio in the EU 27. This is something the Minister consistently denies yet it is quite clear when one looks at the projected pension age increases across the EU. In 2028, when Ireland would have a retirement age of 68 years, England will only be moving to 67 years, with plans to increase pension age there to 68 years in 2046, nearly 20 years after Ireland. Germany will increase pension age to 67 years but not until 2031. Belgium will increase pension age to 67 years but not until 2030. France will only be increasing pension age to 67 years in 2023. The list goes on and on.
On the third issue, we are forcing retirees onto jobseeker payments. Workers contractually obliged to retire at 65, as well as workers physically unfit to continue in their job beyond 65, are forced to claim jobseeker’s benefit. The jobseeker’s benefit payment rate is €45.30 per week, or €2,355.60 per annum, less than a contributory State pension. Why should a person retiring at 65, who has worked his or her entire life, never having relied on social welfare, be forced to sign on to receive a jobseeker's payment for a year? The way in which the Government is bridging this gap leads to the question of how it intends to continue this if and when the pension age increases to 67 years the year after next. Will those retiring at 65 be forced onto a jobseeker's payment for two years? That would be a ludicrous situation, seen nowhere else in the world.
This Bill puts forward a sensible and very reasonable proposal to establish a task force, to allow it to engage with the experts and trade unions, listen to them and set the pension age based on that engagement and based on something more than saving money. I ask Members to support the Bill and to set up a task force to ensure we do what is right for today’s workers and future workers.